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How to Make a Rocket out of Paper & a Straw

Learn how to make a rocket out of paper and a straw with the instructions in this Howcast science project video.


Hi, guys. Just think about this; when you hear, '3, 2, 1, take off', what comes to your mind? Rockets, right? Really cool rocket ships that fly into outer space, maybe going to the moon, or rovers going on Mars. Some of you are thinking, "Oh, my gosh. What's this guy doing? There's no way we're going to be looking to make a rocket at home." The reality is you can. Believe it or not, when I tell you how we're about to make a rocket, you can make hundreds of them. All I need is paper, a scissor, Scotch tape, and a straw. I'm going to make a really awesome rocket. I know you're saying, "Wait a minute. It's not going to be able to fly." No, it will fly, and it will fly high into the sky. Ready? Check this out.

Step 1: Regular paper, computer paper. The fun part of this is . . . and we'll get into this a little later, you could change your rocket to try to get it to travel further. I'm going to start with the basic rocket. I'm going to make my rocket 5 inches high. To make it easy, you want to create a square. You all know that squares have 4 equal sides, so you want to make it 5" x 5" x 5" x 5". This is my 5-inch square.

I'm going to make the template of my rocket. I'm going to need to make a circle, which will eventually be the pointy cone part. Think about it; a cup, put it down, trace your circle, and that's done. I'm going to make the wings to my rocket. What I'm going to do is create a triangle that's going to be 2" x 1". Just connect the dots, my wings are done. How simple is that? I'm going to make 2" x 1", and just connect the 2 corners. Here we go. I'm going to do it twice so that my rocket will have a pair of wings. The wings are going to be needed to help it cut through the air. You want your rocket to be really aerodynamic. You want it to be able to cut through the air really fast. The more aerodynamic it is, the further it's going to go. This is all I need to make my rocket. I'm telling you, this rocket will fly 30 feet, maybe.

Next step; cut out the square. If you're not good at cutting, take your time, but you really want your rocket to have a nice body. I cut out my square. This, I would say, is probably the hardest part. I always like having my tape precut because I'm going to have to fold now, and if you fold it and you're holding it, how are you going to cut out your tape? If you're an octopus with 8 hands, it would be okay, but you're not an octopus with eight hands. What I'm going to do is precut this.

My pencil: Take my pencil, I'm going to take my paper, and I'm going to wrap the paper around the pencil so tightly that the pencil is going to be stuck inside. Take, and roll; roll it all around. You have this; pencil doesn't want to fall out, but there's hardly any friction. Twist it, twist it, twist it. 2 smooth surfaces; not a lot of friction, it comes out. Make your body even. Take your piece of tape. Tape 1, tape 2, and tape 3. I now made the body to my rocket. It looks like a straw. Spitball. No, not a spitball; don't do it. Body to my rocket.

I'm going to make the cone. I'm going to make a little, little dot in the center of my circle, and I'm just going to make a little triangle, like a piece of the pie, maybe 1/8 the size of the circle. I'm going to cut out the circle. Actually, I lied; I said that making the cylinder, or the body of the rocket, was probably the hardest part. Actually, I think this is going to be the hardest part. If you watch, you'll be able to do it.

I'm going to take the circle and cut out the piece of the pie. I do not need the piece of the pie; I need that. Watch what I'm about to do. I'm going to take it, and I'm going to make a cone. I'm going to put this down. Right now, it looks like a teepee or a really cool hat. I'm going to take this and I'm just going to twirl it and keep twirling it around my fingers; keep twirling it, and you keep doing it until eventually, it just gets so tight around your finger that it become a really cool, tight cone. I'm going to take a piece of tape and tape it down. Now it looks like an ice cream cone. What would you do if mommy gave you ice cream on a cone like that? You wouldn't want it.

I'm going to take this and I'm going to put it on top, but it just looks a little too flimsy. I made it a little too big. If that happens, just cut a small piece like this; put it on top. Think about how pointy this is. This will cut through the air, the way a knife can cut through butter. I'm going to tape this down. Take it and tape. My rocket is almost done. Take both sides, and then what I would do is actually test this. You want to make sure that your cone is airtight, so just blow into it. No air. Your rocket's almost done.

I'm going to add my wings. The cool part about this experiment is later, when you make it and you fly it, if you're not happy with how far your rocket went, or if you're not happy with how high your rocket went, the beauty of science is you can change things. You could change how big your rocket is. You could change the wing shape. Maybe make a square wing. You could change the wing size. You could change the wing number. There are so many variables that you can change to try to get the rocket to go further, you'll be here for hours making rockets. I'm going to add my wings. You still have no clue as to how we're going to get this rocket to fly, but watch. Add my wing; wing 1 and wing Number 2. Now my rocket is ready for lift off. Watch.

Straw: This would be my rocket holder. Let's do a countdown and watch it take off. Count with me. Ready? 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, take off. Did you really expect it to take off? It can't take off. What does it need? It needs a force. Everything on earth that moves needs a force. Some of you are saying, "Man, we don't have an engine." You do; your lungs. Check this out. Look at my chest. Breathe the air out, your lungs get smaller. The more air you put, the more power you give your rocket ship. I'm going to blow all the air out of my mouth into this straw and it's going to hit the rocket. The air cannot escape. It's going to create so much pressure, the air's going to have to find a way out, and your rocket is going to fly.

These are really pointy, extremely pointy. You don't want to do this at home. You have your little brother and sister running around, and you could poke them. You've got to make sure that no one's around, or you can make sure you do this outside, but you can test it. Watch. Put it in. Vary the force; small force. Let's see how far it goes. Maybe I'll just shoot it up first so you guys can see a small force. Ready? 'Boink'. If you did a harder force, it could actually move across the room. Ready? If you go outside, you could challenge yourself. Every time you do it, put a marker on the floor. You can say, "Wow," and you can measure it. Measure it in your feet size. 1 feet, 2 feet; It went ten of my shoe sizes. Then you say to yourself, "Wow. Man, it only went 15 shoe sizes. I really wanted it to go 30." Go back home, change one thing on your rocket. Maybe you can make it smaller. Maybe if it's smaller, it weighs less. I'm not going to tell you what makes the rocket go further; that's the science. You ask a question, make your prediction, you test it, and then you get your results and see what happens. That's our awesome paper rocket.

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